Friday, October 25th 2013
Government decision to proceed with the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will help change attitudes towards alcohol
The decision by Government to include a wide set of measures under its new Alcohol Misuse Strategy brings us a step closer to a robust framework to reduce alcohol abuse. This extensive package will form part of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which will help to bring about a change in attitudes towards our consumption of alcohol.
This range of measures will increase awareness of the dangers of alcohol misuse and help to reduce consumption. The headline measures that will form part of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill include minimum pricing, regulation of marketing and advertising of alcohol, the statutory separation of alcohol from other products in mixed trading outlets and health labelling.
Misuse of alcohol is one of the biggest challenges facing society today, not just from a health perspective, but from an economic and social perspective too. According to the Department of Health, the cost to Irish society of alcohol related problems is currently in excess of €3.5 billion a year. Alcohol abuse is estimated to be a contributory factor in over 50% of all suicides in Ireland.
Despite the stark consequences of alcohol misuse, our consumption of alcohol has continued on a worrying trajectory. Between 1980 and 2010, consumption per capita in Ireland grew by 24%, compared to an average decline of 15 % in the EU-27. Futhermore, over the past decade or so, the average age of first contact with alcohol has fallen from 16 to 14 years of age.
The measures agreed by Government reflect much of the proposals that I and my colleagues on the Committee on Health and Children published in our report on Alcohol Misuse last year. Our report showed that there was support across the political divide to implement a range of measures to tackle alcohol misuse. There was consensus on the need to bring about a change in attitudes towards the misuse of alcohol by illustrating the huge personal and economic costs caused by hazardous drinking.
No single measure will solve the problem of alcohol misuse. Rather, a package of measures is needed to change our attitudes towards, and behaviour regarding, the consumption of alcohol. The decision by Government to proceed with a comprehensive range of measures to tackle alcohol misuse will help to bring about a change in attitude and consumption.